In the digital age, as media has become more diffuse, complex, and expensive to produce, it’s been critical to building local media enterprises that are big enough to provide services to a broad community at a sustainable cost.
One of the best examples of this trend is Iowa, where Iowa Public Radio celebrates its 100th anniversary serving Iowan’s news and cultural programs. Originally, 25+ public radio signals that covered the state of Iowa were operated by Iowa State University, Northern Iowa University, and the University of Iowa. In 2006, the programming and operations of these stations were consolidated into one new, nonprofit entity, Iowa Public Radio. And on June 30, 2022, the Iowa Board of Regents, which owns the broadcast licenses that support Iowa Public Radio’s news and information network, will transfer these licenses to Iowa Public Radio. This transfer of licenses will make Iowa Public Radio a fully independent, community-licensed nonprofit local media outlet serving the state of Iowa with important local news and information, both over the air and via digital channels.
Public Media Company was hired to help the Iowa community and public media leaders plan for the creation of Iowa Public Radio in 2004-2005, and again in 2021 to advise on Iowa Public Radio’s transition to a community licensee. Our recent work involved extensive analysis of Iowa Public Radio’s broadcast infrastructure, the costs to run it, the business model for Iowa Public Radio as a standalone entity, and the necessary steps to ensure a smooth transition to this new operating model.
As part of this transition, Iowa Public Radio ceased to receive an annual operating subsidy from Iowa’s university systems. Still, the tradeoff is that Iowa Public Radio can operate with more speed and less oversight from an academic institution. And Iowa Public Radio will soon have the speed, agility, and community support to serve as a critical source of news and information for Iowans for another 100 years.